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House targets approval of 25 bills, Cha-cha not included

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The House of Representatives has targeted to pass 25 bills of national significance before it adjourns on March 24.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., in a press conference on Thursday, said that with the new provision in the House rules to fast-track approval of House bills filed by lawmakers, they have identified 25 important measures which they will present in the upcoming Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting in Malacanang.

Among these are the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, anti-trust bill, anti-smuggling, anti-money laundering bill, institutionalization of a national land use policy, and the proposed open skies policy.

Belmonte, however, said that Charter change (Cha-cha) was not included in the list of priority measures that the House will push for immediate approval.

The Senate has included in its priority the Charter change bill and has scheduled to start hearing next week.

"It is the prerogative of Congress to initiate Charter change hearings. It might not be a priority for the executive branch, but it will be among the priorities of the legislative branch," said Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on Constitutional Amendments.

But, despite not being included in the priority list of the Lower Chamber, Belmonte said the House committee on Constitutional Amendments is handling the various proposals on Charter change and is continuously conducting hearings to deliberate the matter.

"Charter change is not something that you can do quickly. (But) the House committee on Constitutional Amendments is continually working on it," he said.

The Speaker said Congress has the time to tackle Charter change so there is not need to rush for its approval.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone earlier filed a proposed House Resolution urging Congress to immediately call for a Constitutional Convention (Con-con) to amend the 1987 Constitution.

In his resolution, Evardone said after almost 24 years of experience with the 1987 Constitution, "it has become imperative to revisit the Constitution to make the country more responsive to the needs of the people, create a more attractive investment climate for foreign capital, and boost the economy beyond the bondage of restrictive and dormant policies."

He noted that a Con-con, as one of the modes to amend the Constitution, would be more acceptable to the people compared to the Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) whose members would be suspected of preserving and protecting their own interests.

But for Speaker Belmonte, he said he favors the convening of Congress into a Constituent Assembly as the mode to amend the Charter.

"Personally, I'm for a Constituent Assembly, it's more doable mainly on the economic provisions of the Constitution," he said.

By Lilybeth G. Ison-PNA/PIA9-BST




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